Nigerian arms seizure may indicate new Iran-Hamas route

Rockets, mortars found in 13 containers.

nigeria weapons 311 (photo credit: Associated Press)
nigeria weapons 311
(photo credit: Associated Press)
Weapons discovered in 13 shipping containers in the Port of Lagos earlier this week could signify that Iran is trying to develop a new route to smuggle arms and explosives to Hamas in the Gaza Strip, defense officials said on Thursday.
The ship, apparently from Iran, reportedly docked in the Lagos Port on Tuesday and, according to the bill of lading, was supposed to be carrying construction supplies. On inspecting the 13 containers, customs officials discovered rockets, mortars, bombs, rifles and heavy machine guns hidden among crates of building tiles.
Nigerian officials were quoted in the media claiming that the cargo had been under surveillance for some time. It was possible that the intelligence on the cargo was supplied by Western sources.
“On opening the first container, the service operatives discovered rocket launchers, grenades and other explosives; the weapons were concealed among crates of floor tiles,” Nigerian State Security Service spokeswoman Marilyn Ogar was quoted as saying.
The largest rocket appeared to be a 107-mm. Katyusha, which Iran is known to manufacture and which makes up the backbone of Hizbullah’s and Hamas’s arsenals.
It was unclear when the containers arrived in Lagos. Some reports claimed they arrived on Tuesday, and others said they had been dropped off in Nigeria in July but had yet to cross customs due to problems with their documentation.
Iran has been known to use ports in Sudan and Eritrea to unload weaponry and then take it over land, via Egypt, to the Philadelphi Corridor – the 14-kilometer strip of land between Egypt and the Gaza Strip – where the weaponry is then smuggled by tunnels to Hamas.
It is possible the discovery of the arms and ammunition in Nigeria means Iran has abandoned the Sudanese route due to the difficulty it has encountered in operating in the Red Sea, under international surveillance.
According to foreign reports, Israel also operates throughout the Red Sea, revealing last year that navy submarines and missile ships regularly passed through the Suez Canal to the Red Sea for operations.
Earlier this week, IDF Chief of General Staff Lt.-Gen. Gabi Ashkenazi said that the navy’s elite commando unit Flotilla 13 – known as the Shayetet – had recently conducted an operation “far away from Israel.”
If Iran is using Nigeria as a port, it would also entail a major logistical operation to facilitate the transfer of the weapons by land from Nigeria, Chad, Sudan and then via Egypt. In January 2009, Israel reportedly bombed a convoy of trucks that was carrying advanced weaponry destined for Gaza as it was traveling through the Sudanese desert.